Energy technology company Baker Hughes has a diverse portfolio that spans energy and industrial value chains. With headquarters in Houston and London, the global company operates in more than 120 countries with roughly 58,000 employees.

At the helm of Baker Hughes’s security operations is a robust, structured team that is part of the company’s Health, Safety, and Environment organization.

“The Security team’s greatest responsibility is the protection of people and continuity of business. We are a proactive, risk-based, and intelligence-led security function,” says Andrew Tosh, Security Director of Global Operations.

At the center of Baker Hughes’s security operations is the Global Intelligence & Travel Security Operations Center (GITSOC), focused on keeping employees safe and secure and empowering regional teams and business leaders to make informed decisions. The Security team also oversees the governance and implementation of the crisis management program for Baker Hughes, which is deployed horizontally across product companies, regions and functions, and has played a leading role in ensuring business continuity on a local level throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The GITSOC – which recently celebrated its first anniversary – was founded in 2019 to ensure an uninterrupted commitment to duty of care, and has already realized massive value not only for the Baker Hughes Security team, but the enterprise as a whole.


The Why Behind the GITSOC

Planning for the GITSOC kicked into high gear in 2018 under Marie Schmidt — who built and now manages the strategic direction and day-to-day operations of the center — in anticipation of an eventual separation from former majority shareholder GE, which was formalized in September of 2019. The situation presented a unique opportunity to create a new operating model and processes from the ground up to support the organization independently.

Schmidt explains that she built the GITSOC around a focused purpose and to ensure continuity of critical security services. “All of our responsibilities aim to support our Security function’s primary goal of ensuring the safety and security of Baker Hughes’s personnel and operations.”

She adds that the center’s scope falls into three main buckets: 1) monitoring global events and issuing timely communications to decision makers and employees; 2) administering the travel security program for travel to locations of elevated risk; and 3) operating the emergency notification system for critical employee messaging.

When COVID-19 became a reality quite early on in the new GITSOC’s operations, the center did not stray from those core responsibilities. “What has changed is the degree to what we are focusing on each in terms of time. For example, the company’s travel volume has decreased, due to company and global travel restrictions implemented early in the pandemic. We have spent a lot of time using our resources to support the mobilization of travelers back home safely who were affected by border closures or other travel restrictions. We are also spending more time on monitoring social unrest globally, and it is interesting to watch the ebb and flow in this environment,” Schmidt says.

But Schmidt adds that the GITSOC’s focus is not on just disseminating news to the company. “While we are keeping watch on global developments 24/7/365, we’re not in the business of reporting on items that don’t have an actual or potential concern for Baker Hughes. One of our primary goals is to filter through the noise to highlight the items that the company, our employees, and travelers should be aware of. Sometimes the items getting the most media coverage do impact us, but many times they don’t. We let decision makers and employees know when they should pay attention and put it in the perspective of ‘what it means for Baker Hughes,’” she says.


Baker Hughes’s GITSOC: What it Does and Doesn’t Do

The Global Intelligence & Travel Security Operations Center (GITSOC) at Baker Hughes was conceived as a global watch center to provide security incident monitoring and communications, and to administer the travel security program. What began as a small group with a delineated focus supporting the Security team, has grown into an integral resource collaborating across functions and product companies to provide critical duty of care to the company’s personnel and operations, says Manager of the GITSOC, Marie Schmidt.

The GITSOC provides global situational monitoring for safety and security, and crisis management support; heads the travel security program and emergency notification system; and deploys real-time analytical work and reports based on global developments. To stay eagle-eye focused on its purpose, the GITSOC does not perform physical security monitoring or operations, at least not at this time.

During COVID-19, the GITSOC has become an information hub in support of efforts to mobilize employees stuck in transit and help them return home safely. In addition, the GITSOC’s team of seven people work tirelessly to ensure that they do not lose sight of any other safety or security risks that could potentially affect the company, such as terrorism, protests, political upheaval or natural disasters.

If a potential incident is flagged as important, the GITSOC serves as the central place to communicate that information to the right people within the organization to make more informed decisions, and keep people and operations safe.


The How of the GITSOC

Within the GITSOC, a total of seven team members watch for safety or security incidents from terrorism to natural disasters, to protests and political upheaval around the clock. They use that information to put it into a perspective that matters to the enterprise.

Early on Schmidt and the rest of the team determined that the GITSOC would be one central operation and would take an analyst model rather than an operator-based model.

“The GITSOC supports our strategic intelligence and regional Security teams across the enterprise with country risk monitoring and weekly watch lists, which enable greater visibility for our employee base into events occurring or having potential to impact Baker Hughes operations or employees in the future,” Tosh says.

To accomplish these goals, “ensuring this was an analyst model really prioritized critical thinking and writing skills as must-haves for our team members,” Schmidt explains.

Josh Walker, Security Director, who runs the western hemisphere’s security operations and oversees the company’s global crisis management program, explains further, “We found that centralizing the GITSOC allows us to have the highest-quality world view and a consistent approach and resources for every region.” In other words, no matter where an employee or office is located in the world, they will have the same resource in the GITSOC.

In addition, the analyst approach allows for flexibility, a particularly important trait for the GITSOC and its team. “For me, when we talk about different pathways you can go with a [security operations center], it’s a question of whether you want a checklist versus a framework. We chose the latter. If you follow a prescriptive model, you will never capture the nuances of each specific event. You can’t go by a checklist when you’re in the business of analyzing, anticipating, and responding to complex geopolitical and security issues,” Schmidt says.

That flexibility has lent itself well not only to the ever-changing threat landscape during these times, but to the continued operations and success of the GITSOC throughout the pandemic, allowing it to adapt on its feet and respond to the company’s changing needs. Even before COVID-19 was a reality, Schmidt ensured that analysts had the tools to work remotely — something she considered critical to the GITSOC’s success from the beginning, and something that allowed the transition to a remote work environment at the height of the pandemic to be a smooth, seamless process from an operational services standpoint.

To accomplish these goals, “ensuring this was an analyst model really prioritized critical thinking and writing skills as must-haves for our team members,” Schmidt explains.

Baker Hughes’s GITSOC plays a critical role in supporting local team members and personnel around the world through real-time incident reporting, bespoke threat assessments and traveler tracking, all toward the goal of helping to ensure the safety and security of the company’s people and operations worldwide.

For the Security department across the enterprise, Schmidt says the GITSOC allows Baker Hughes’s global Security team to be out in the field responding and investigating incidents and keeping the company safe. “Our Security colleagues are out doing all sorts of tasks, not sitting in front of their computer. We do that for them and provide them the information they need to perform their expansive responsibilities,” she says.

Baker Hughes as a whole has seen the value of the center many times over in the past year, from being able to respond intelligently to political unrest in parts of the world to preparedness for American hurricane season. “Our vision was for this to be more than just a security tool,” Walker shares. “The GITSOC is instrumental in delivering consistent and timely communications to track everything going on and provide a global context to the right people to make quick decisions to enable our business.”

Tosh adds, “To have examples of how the GITSOC has helped the company continue operations safely and securely shows our leadership and the business the real value of what the GITSOC brings. It’s really a return on investment and a great success story for our organization.”